Miami, Florida (and points south)
For those who have never been cruising, living on a cruise ship is much like staying at an all-inclusive resort. Having written about all of our shore excursions, it’s time for me to give you a tour of our home away from home for those two weeks in late April and early May, 2013. I present for your approval a photo tour of the Norwegian Pearl.
Cruise ships are truly the cliché of the floating hotel. Everything is self-contained, and in today’s modern world, even Wi-Fi, Internet and cellular services are available (for an extra fee, of course.) There are plenty of cruise line reviews on the web and cruise companies provide anything from intimate accommodations for less than a hundred guests to the giant mega-cruisers that have the capacity for over three thousand guests. The Norwegian Pearl is one of the larger cruisers, but not so large that she cannot fit through the Panama Canal. (See my blog post on the canal passage for more information on dimensions.)
The Pearl has around 1,000 crew and 2,400 passengers when fully loaded. Christened in December, 2006, the Pearl was named by her Godmother, Rosie O’Donnell. After six years of service, the Pearl spent some time in dry dock getting refurbished. She was delivered to Miami and her first load of passengers since the facelift on April 21, 2013. New carpets and fresh paint made the Pearl glisten. Indeed, we departed about two hours late because they were still restocking the ship with food and supplies at our scheduled departure time. Having been completely emptied for the upgrade, it apparently took longer than they expected to restock for our cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, and then on to her summer duties in the Alaskan cruise season.
The facelift continued while on our cruise. This crewman was freshening up the stripes on the walls of the promenade deck using an artist’s brush. During the cruise there were a few wet paint signs on rails or walls. The work remaining was all minor touchup. There were no areas blocked off or otherwise off limits or unavailable because of the work being done.
We opted for an outside cabin, but we accepted an obstructed view to save a few dollars on our fare. We were actually planning to see if there were any discount upgrades to a balcony cabin a few days prior to departure, but were told the ship was completely booked. On the first day of the cruise, they announced that there would be no accommodation changes because all rooms were full. We were on deck 8, mid-ship. The cabins are small, but the photo makes it appear smaller than they are because the hallway into the room is narrow with closets and shelving on the right and the bathroom on the left.
The Pearl is the largest cruise ship my wife, Lynn, and I have sailed on. We spent several days getting lost, turning the wrong way out of our cabin, walking head-down looking at our provided ship’s layout map. In the hallways, with no outside references, it is easy to get turned around.
At one point, we left our room and headed in the wrong direction. After walking a ways, I realized my error and turned around, complaining to Lynn about getting turned around again. A couple walking behind us heard me and the gentleman simply said, “The fish are swimming toward the front of the ship.”
Obviously a Zen statement… then it dawned on me. He was referring to the fish on the carpet. I thanked him profusely. That little tip reduced our wrong turns by 90 percent.
Diego was our cabin steward. He kept our room in tip-top shape and provided us with plenty of ice to keep our water cold.
Of course, every evening, Diego would turn down our bed and provide us a towel animal.
Cruise ship safety is an important consideration, especially in recent months with a couple of high profile cruise ship accidents. We had our muster drill shortly after departure on the first day. While in port, the crews had separate drills that did not involve passengers. The photo above is of one of the crew musters. Passengers are given muster stations where they are to go in an emergency. Life vests are in your room, however, if you are not in your room when called to station, there are life vests available at the muster station.
Happy, Happy, Washie, Washie. Food safety is very important in the close quarters on a cruise ship. At the buffet restaurants, during mealtimes, an attendant makes sure everyone gets a shot of antiseptic hand cleaner before entering. At other times, and at the sit down restaurants, dispensers like the one on the right automatically dispense hand cleaner for use prior to entering the food area.
Lynn and I avoided the buffet unless we were in a rush (seldom necessary on a cruise ship.) We prefer to eat in the sit down restaurants and request to sit with other passengers who want to share a table. We met some interesting people and had great conversation for dinner with people from all over the world.
Our favorite breakfast place was just down the way from our cabin on deck 8. The Blue Lagoon is one of the dozen or so dining options on the ship. They serve hot or cold breakfast and a limited sandwich menu the rest of the day.
Of course, with all the eating options, exercise is an important component to keep from putting on too many extra pounds. There is a full fitness room with treadmills and other exercise gear. However, Lynn and I prefer walking. I carried my iPod with pedometer wherever we walked, and we averaged over 5 miles per day on the ship. The promenade deck was our favorite place to walk. Deck 7 has plenty of shade with the lifeboats hanging above, and three laps around deck 7 is just over a mile. We would try to make a morning and afternoon walk of at least a mile, often two miles each. On nice evenings, a mile walk was really more of a stroll with plenty of stops to view the lights of passing ships and enjoy the gentle sea breezes. Walking from one place to another on the ship made it easy for us to average a total of 5 miles, especially if we went in the wrong direction and ended up having to walk all the way the other direction.
No jogging is allowed on Deck 7, so runners are given their own track on deck 14. Marked in orange, the track winds its way around the upper superstructure of the ship. Since it doesn’t traverse the entire length of the ship, it takes about six laps to complete a mile.
Near the jogging track is a large rock wall, built on the end of the Pearl’s stack. The clever design uses otherwise unusable space to provide an exercise area for climbers.
There are pools for swimming as exercise, but let’s face it, cruising is for relaxing as well. Deck 12 has two pools and three hot tubs, if I recall correctly. Even on nice days, we usually found a place to sit on one of the many lounge chairs provided. Occasionally, we would have to sit on deck 13 if the pool deck was full. Deck 12 also had grill cookouts on a few special occasions and there was often live music or other entertainment on this deck.
A large theater, the largest theater I’ve seen on a cruise ship, had some great entertainment. Unfortunately, photographs there are not allowed. We only skipped a couple of shows and enjoyed most of them. When we were done with the show, we ended up at one of the bars with live music. A few days into our cruise, we stopped at the piano bar to listen to Jim Bridger. His musical talent and sense of humor were infectious. We spent at least an hour or so almost every night from then on enjoying Jim’s antics and being amazed by his musical knowledge and talent.
After hours, the lighting scheme of this bar invited me to take a photo.
The Bliss Lounge also includes a four-lane bowling alley. Two lanes are portside, and the other two lanes are starboard.
After a long day ashore, passengers return to the Pearl and her sister ship, the Norwegian Sun.
Sunset at sea is magical. Schedule your day to be on deck at sunset. You will be glad you did. We must have liked our cruise. While onboard, we put in a deposit for a future cruise. For us, it will probably be Alaska in the fall of 2014, and it will probably be on the Norwegian Pearl.